Linda Thom On Juries, Trials And Translations
July 06, 2013, 03:17 AM
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Nicholas Stix wrote that when Selma Mora testified in Spanish at the George Zimmerman trial

Judge Nelson ordered Spanish-speaking jurors (there are Spanish-speaking jurors?) to ignore their own ears if they heard Mora say something that contradicted the “official” court translation.

I served on a federal jury in LA over 15 years ago. [See More Than Borders Separate Us, By Linda Thom, Social Contract , Spring 1997] The plaintiffs could not speak English. We had an interpreter and we were instructed not to listen to the Spanish if we spoke Spanish.  So, what was I supposed to do, cover my ears each time the plaintiffs spoke?  

When the husband was asked to spell his name, he said in Spanish that he could not spell his name and the judge told the interpreter to skip on. When the wife took the stand, they did not ask her to spell her name. The other jury members did not seem to notice this as I found out later.

I understood what both plaintiffs said. When we got to deliberations, the jury could not understand why the plaintiffs did not keep receipts or canceled checks to show the expenses they had incurred. I explained to them that the plaintiffs could not read or write in Spanish so they could hardly be expected to do arithmetic and keep a check register. They were perplexed and I said that the plaintiffs could not spell their names when they were sworn in. So, bad on me for listening to the Spanish.

The jury really had no clue that the plaintiffs were in the country illegally but it was obvious to me. It's a long story. Even though most of the jury members lived in the LA area, they seemed pretty clueless. For example, they couldn't understand why the plaintiffs took their son's body to Michigan to be buried. I explained that it was taken to Michoacan.